Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Campbell Award Nominees

Location: Campbell Conference Awards Banquet at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Comments: In 2008, Kathleen Ann Goonan became only the third woman to ever win the Campbell Award. I know that I may sound like a broken record at times, but this track record is kind of ridiculous. Here we are, in the twenty-first century, and the list of nominees for this year only had four nominees written by female authors out of fourteen total nominees. Not only that, the slate of nominees is ridiculously white - there were only two works nominated whose author was not white. The end result is a ballot that is very male and very white. And in 2008, this is simply embarrassing.

Best Novel

In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Second Place:
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Third Place:
The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod

Axis by Robert Charles Wilson
Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff
Brasyl by Ian McDonald
Deadstock by Jeffrey Thomas
HARM by Brian W. Aldiss
Mainspring by Jay Lake
The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper
The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
Time's Child by Rebecca Ore
Zig Zag by Jose Carlos Somoza

Go to previous year's nominees: 2007
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2009

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2008 Prometheus Award Nominees

Location: Unknown.

Comments: The Prometheus Award Hall of Fame is, and always has been, something of an odd duck. The nominees are usually an almost random grab-bag ranging from classic works of fiction that tangentially touch upon themes dear to the hearts of libertarians, to recent works published by authors who are idolized by the members of the Libertarian Futurist Society, plus an assortment of works that don't fit into this axis, many of which seem to be present merely to give the award some intellectual heft. In 2008, the nominees were all classic works that feature passing mentions of libertarian-like sentiments, but which, in many cases, don't really seem to support the libertarian ideology. I can understand wanting to have authors like T.H. White and J.R.R. Tolkien on a libertarian award's list of honorees. It gives a certain amount of respectability to have works by such authors listed with the other works that have been honored. But the honor rings hollow when their works don't really espouse the libertarian ideology.

Best Novel

(tie) The Gladiator by Harry Turtledove
(tie) Ha'Penny by Jo Walton

Other Nominees:
The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod
Fleet of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Ragamuffin by Tobias S. Buckell

Hall of Fame

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Other Nominees:
As Easy as A.B.C. by Rudyard Kipling
The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

Go to previous year's nominees: 2007
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2009

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2008 Clarke Award Nominees

Location: Sci-Fi London at the Apollo Piccadilly Circus in London, United Kingdom.

Comments: You can often discern the concerns of an era by looking at the science fiction that its authors produce. The 2008 Clarke Awards were focused on militarism, as reflected in Richard Morgan's novel Black Man, terrorism as reflected in Ken MacLeod's novel The Execution Channel, and fear of nuclear holocaust, as reflected in Stephen Baxter's The H-Bomb Girl. The unifying theme of the genre fiction that appears on this year's ballot appears to be fear of our neighbors and fear of our own creations. Science fiction has always had an undercurrent of fear of technology and fear of the other, starting with Frankenstein, and that undercurrent rises and falls seemingly in time with the mood of the society around it, and in 2008, the mood of the society was decidedly fearful and that is reflected in the fiction that was produced.

Black Man by Richard Morgan

The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall
The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod
The H-Bomb Girl by Stephen Baxter
The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
The Red Men by Matthew de Abaitua

What Are the Arthur C. Clarke Awards?

Go to previous year's nominees: 2007
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2009

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

2008 World Fantasy Award Nominees

Location: World Fantasy Convention, Calgary, Alberta.

Comments: Even though there are still serious gender disparity issues displayed in the 2008 slate of World Fantasy Award nominees, I'm going to skip by that to point out an even more troubling issue that isn't as readily apparent at first glance: This list of nominees is very white. Looking through the list, I can't identify a single nominee who isn't white. Having such a pale shade of nominees seems to be something of a tradition for the World Fantasy Awards, but by 2008 all-white nominee lists should have been a somewhat awkward piece of historical trivia. Sure, every now and then someone like Nalo Hopkinson would get a nomination, and might even win an award, but on the whole the minority nominees have been vastly outnumbered by their lily white competition to an entirely embarrassing degree, even at this late date.

Best Novel

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Other Nominees:
Fangland by John Marks
The Gospel of the Knife by Will Shetterly
The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith
Territory by Emma Bull

Best Novella

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Other Nominees:
Cold Snap by Kim Newman
The Master Miller's Tale by Ian R. MacLeod
The Mermaids by Robert Edric
Stars Seen through Stone by Lucius Shepard

Best Short Fiction

Singing of Mount Abora by Theodora Goss

Other Nominees:
The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics by Daniel Abraham
The Church on the Island by Simon Kurt Unsworth
Damned If You Don't by Robert Shearman
The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change by Kij Johnson

Best Anthology

Inferno edited by Ellen Datlow

Other Nominees:
The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Five Strokes to Midnight edited by Gary A. Braunbeck and Hank Schwaeble
Logorrhea edited by John Klima
Wizards edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois

Best Collection

Tiny Deaths by Robert Shearman

Other Nominees:
Dagger Key and Other Stories by Lucius Shepard
Hart & Boot & Other Stories by Tim Pratt
Plots and Misadventures by Stephen Gallagher
Portable Childhoods by Ellen Klages
The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club by Kim Newman

Lifetime Achievement

Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon
Patricia A. McKillip

Other Nominees:

Best Artist

Edward Miller

Other Nominees:
Ruan Jia
Mikko Kinnunen
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio

Special Award, Professional

Peter Crowther

Other Nominees:
Allison Baker and Chris Roberson
Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman
Jeremy Lassen and Jason Williams
Shawna McCarthy
Gordon van Gelder

Special Award, Non-Professional

Midori Snyder and Terri Windling

Other Nominees:
G.S. Evans and Alice Whittenburg
Stephen Jones
John Klima
Rosalie Parker and Raymond Russell

Go to previous year's nominees: 2007
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2009

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

2008 WSFA Small Press Awards

Location: CapClave in Rockville, Maryland.

Comments: One of the more interesting things about the WSFA Small Press Award is that is is judged anonymously - before the stories on the short list are given over to the members of WSFA to read and vote upon, the names of the authors of the stories and the publications in which the stories appeared in are removed. This means that particular authors or publications gain no benefit from any name recognition that might boost their standing, leaving the writing itself as the sole guide for the voters.

The net result of the WSFA voting system is to make it is quite possible for a lesser-known author to beat out an established "name" in the genre. In 2008, this was demonstrated quite handily as relatively new writer Tom Doyle won the award over a strong field that included works by established industry stalwarts Elizabeth Bear and Jeff VanderMeer.

WSFA Small Press Award

The Wizard of Macatawa by Tom Doyle (reviewed in The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories)

Other Nominees:
Bufo Rex by Erik Amundsen
Orm the Beautiful by Elizabeth Bear
Harry the Crow by John Kratman
Mask of the Ferret by Ken Pick and Alan Loewen
The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer

Go to previous year's nominees: 2007
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2009

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Biased Opinion - Not All Opinions Matter

It seems to have become an article of faith in many places that all opinions, no matter how loony, must be considered. On internet boards especially, one seems to be expected to respond to the most ridiculously silly opinions offered, simply on the basis that someone holds such an opinion. If you ignore them, you are accused of ducking the issue, or the other party declares that such a non-response is evidence that their views are valid, or some similar accusation. It has become accepted that one must spend time and effort responding even the most outlandish claims.

This is, to put it bluntly, simply idiotic.

All opinions are not made equal. All opinions do not deserve respect. In point of fact, some opinions deserve little more than derision and scorn. Specifically, I am referring to uninformed opinions. An opinion announced that is based upon no actual knowledge on the part of the speaker is worth exactly nothing. (I believe that it was Harlan Ellison who said, "[y]ou are not entitled to your opinion, you are entitled to your informed opinion. If you are not informed on the subject, then your opinion counts for nothing.") I don't think this should need to be said, but apparently it does. If you show up at a discussion, and offer up an opinion on a subject you know nothing about, you should probably expect to be ridiculed. And you deserve to be.

So, why does this matter? Well, with respect to science fiction, it comes up a lot. Many people assert that they don't like science fiction. When asked what science fiction they have been exposed to, the answer is usually "Star Wars" (or "Star Trek"), and often not even that. The answer to that is that they have demonstrated, at most that they don't like Star Wars, not that they don't like science fiction (that's okay, I don't much like The Matrix, I still like science fiction though). Recently, while being interviewed concerning his role in a production of MacBeth, Patrick Stewart was chided by the Newsweek interviewer about attracting weird Trekkies to the theatre. Unlike what happens most of the time, Stewart asked the interviewer how many Trekkies he'd actually met. The interviewer was unable to identify any. Stewart asked him to explain why Trekkies and Star Trek are weird. Rather than try to talk his way out of his now shockingly exposed ignorance, the interviewer terminated the interview and ran an unflattering article about Stewart.

Opinions are also frequently aired by people seeking to distance their "good" production from "bad" science fiction. It is currently in vogue for actors to talk about their new science fiction series as if it were a significant break from science fiction of the past. I believe it was Katee Sackhoff who said that Battlestar Galactica wasn't like other science fiction because it had characters and plot. It is treated by most media as being so apparent that science fiction is usually devoid of such things that the obvious follow-up question "What science fiction programs are you referring to as lacking in such elements" was never asked. I suppose that neither Katee nor her interviewer had ever heard of Babylon 5, or Farscape (read review), or Firefly, or Blade Runner, or The Matrix, or 2001 and on and on, many of which had an actor at some point try to argue that their show wasn't like all those "bad" science fiction shows because it broke new dramatic ground and has characters and plot. I am curious to see the next actor who forgets Katee's statements about Battlestar Galactica and claims their new show is great because it isn't like all those old, trashy characterless and plotless shows that came before.

This sort of ignorance on parade is not new. I remember a short-lived series called Earth 2. In the hype leading up to the series, much was made of the fact that they weren't going to use veteran science fiction writers for the show. They were going "break new ground" and show those silly people living in the science fiction ghetto what real writing was like. Earth 2 would be innovative and great, with plot, characters, and new ideas. What really happened was this: because they had no knowledge of the genre they were entering, the writers and producers of the show rehashed ideas that had been old in science fiction books, movies, and television years or even decades before. Instead of being innovative, the show was the same tired old cliches (many of them done worse than they had already been done before), and didn't even know it. By not knowing the genre they expressed their opinions on, the makers of Earth 2 simply embarrassed themselves.

So, the next time someone says "I don't like science fiction", ask them to back up their statements. Ask if they have read any. Most people will say "no". In this case, the question becomes, how they would come to a conclusion that they didn't like something they had never tried. And the truly sad thing about these sorts of opinions is that most people have read and enjoyed science fiction, without even knowing it. But they expect science fiction to be what they have been told it is - ray guns, funny aliens with tentacles, robots, and exploding spaceships.

When I find someone who is adamant about their dislike of science fiction, I try to find out what they have read or seen. I ask them about Flowers for Algernon, about Frankenstein, about 1984, about Brave New World, about The Road. I ask them about The Left Hand of Darkness. I then point out that all of these are science fiction and see if they might want to revise their uninformed opinion to an informed one.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Biased Opinion - What Is a Sport?

The other day, I had the Olympics on, and NBC was showing the team synchronized swimming event (I know, but no other channels were carrying any Olympic coverage, so I was stuck with that). I was not paying a whole lot of attention, when my 10 year old son came upstairs from the basement and asked what I was watching. "The Olympics" I said. He studied the screen for about ten seconds of the Spanish women whipping their legs about in the air, and pronounced "That isn't a sport."

There has been a lot of controversy this Olympics about subjective sports. Of course, there is always a lot of controversy about them - that seems to be inherent to such endeavors. And the Olympics seem to breed these silly things: synchronized diving appears to be the most recent. The silly nature of a lot of these sports has spawned reactions, such as the "Real Medal Count" tallies in the media, and within the sports themselves, ever desperate attempts to somehow make the scoring systems less subjective and open to abuse.

The list of purely subjective sports in the Olympics is long, and getting longer. The original, 1896 Olympics only had one: gymnastics. All the others appear to have descended, in some way from gymnastics (like diving, developed when gymnasts practicing their routines would dive into water). A possibly incomplete count of those currently in the Olympics is: Gymnastics, diving, rhythmic gymnastics, figure skating, ice dancing, dressage, synchronized swimming, >synchronized diving, half pipe snowboarding and other freestyle skiing or snowboarding events. Further, there are several subjective sports knocking on the door, trying to get in are such things as ballroom dancing, skateboarding, and other "X games" type events. So, what is a sport?

One may ask, as an initial question, why does it matter? Shouldn't we just decide if something is a good competition and add it to the roster? Well, the IOC doesn't see things that way. The IOC has imposed limits on how many sports can be in the Olympics - no more than 28 sports for a total of no more than 301 events, and a limit of 10,500 athletes. These definitions are not always adhered to - the 10,500 athlete limit has been ignored for the most part, and the definition of what a single "sport" is is so loose as to be meaningless (for example, synchronized swimming is part of aquatics, which means that to get rid of it, using the IOC rules, you would have to eliminate the swimming races as well, which is silly; rhythmic gymnastics is also protected, by being part of the "gymnastics" sport). But the 301 even limit is pretty much strictly adhered to. The upshot of this is that to add a sport, one has to get rid of an existing sport. So, if you want rugby, or golf, or now, baseball, you have to axe something that is currently on the roster.

This is stupid. The mammoth stupidity of this sort of "limit" is simply almost indescribable. It does a good job of demonstrating the paucity of the IOCs vision of the Olympics. Rather than providing a world stage for sports, they simply want to have a select few so the games will be "manageable". The given reason for the limits is this: the games are expensive to run, and adding more events means that poor cities in poor countries won't have a shot at hosting the games. Okay, that could be a problem. On the other hand, there are numerous ways of overcoming this without putting an artificial limit on inclusion. (How did they come up with the limit you ask? It appears that they simply decided to freeze the Olympics in place as they were when they made the decision. Good thing they didn't freeze it in 1896, then we'd have nothing but track and field, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, and wrestling). For example, allow cities or smaller countries to submit joint bids, the Beijing Olympics weren't really held entirely within Beijing anyway. But no. We have to limit the games, so we can have sports beg to stay. And really, if rhythmic gymnastics is in the Olympics, why isn't ballroom dancing in? What makes it distinctively different so that one is a sport and one is not?

Further, it is my opinion that many of the sports, like rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming cheapen the games and devalue the medals earned in events like the marathon and the triathlon. A friend of mine has what could be called the "make-up" standard, which is this: if it would be unthinkable to compete in an event without your make-up, then the event isn't a sport. And while I disagree with the standard, that, to me, sums up why these events devalue the objective athletic competitions. When you are concerned with how pretty you are when competing, then you aren't an athlete (and, in my opinion, most of the so-called athletes who are in such sports are far less attractive than those in the objective sports: Kerri Walsh, Misty May-Treanor, Muna Lee and so on are all much more attractive to my eyes).

So, finally, what is a sport? In my opinion, the definition of what is not a sport boils down to this: if any part of the sport is dependent upon whether you have pointed your toes, straightened your arms completely, or kept your legs together properly, then you aren't competing in a sport. Yes, I know, this eliminates pretty much all of the subjective sports, and that's the point. Pointy toes are not sports. What is that I hear from the peanut gallery? These are difficult and require lots of skill? Sure they do. I won't argue with you there. But it takes more than effort and skill to make something a sport. Here are some other activities that require either effort or skill, or both: ballet dancing, construction work, guitar playing, ditch digging, chess, and auto repair. None of them are sports. Neither is diving. Things can be hard and not be a sport. Deal with it.

Some people have come up with the "real medal count", eliminating what they believe are the subjective sports - and have tossed out boxing, tae kwon do, judo and wrestling too. I disagree with that assessment because I believe those sports can be salvaged. Yes, boxing and tae kwon do have had significant scoring controversies (and those questioning the scoring in those events are, in my opinion, justified), but if fencing can come up with a neutral electronic scoring system, then those sports can too. Wrestling and judo are a harder call, because there is no way to come up with an electronic scoring system for them, but they have objective rules concerning what should and should not score, so I think they could be handled fairly, and thus get to stay on a probationary basis.

If I were somehow made king of the world, I would dump all the "pointy-toe" sports from the Olympics. Synchronized swimming? Gone. Diving? No more. Half-pipe? See ya. And so on. I would be magnanimous - artistic gymnasts and divers in individual events in previous Olympic contests can keep their medals. Medals earned by synchronized swimmers, synchronized divers, rhythmic gymnasts and so on? I'd revoke all of those retroactively. But that's just me. And it's unlikely that I will ever be king of the world.

But the serious note is this: The IOC has created an artificial situation with an arbitrary limit. Then it has added obnoxiously corrupt subjective sports in the Olympics and kept out things like rugby (and kicked out baseball) because of that artificial standard. Are these really the guys who should be running the centerpiece world sporting event? I don't think so.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Biased Opinion - Olympic Fraud and Disillusionment

I love the Olympics. At least I used to. I'm not so sure any more.

I like baseball, but pretty much only to the extent that I will play it if the opportunity arises (and in that case, I'm usually playing softball, not baseball), or to the extent that I am participating in a fantasy baseball league. I will watch football or basketball, but usually only if the Hoos are playing. But ever since I was a kid watching guys run around a track in Montreal, or slide down a bobsled run in Innsbruck, I've always felt the allure of Olympic sports. They always seemed to have a different aura about them - perhaps it was just that they happened only once every four years, as opposed to the hum-drum regularity of professional sports games. perhaps it was that the sports were so varied and different. I don't know.

I remember watching the Lake Placid Olympics and noticing the first wedge of hypocrisy in the rules - athletes from western nations were held to a strict amateur code, usually struggling to make ends meet, while athletes from behind the Iron Curtain were, essentially, professionals paid for their athletic skills. I remember asking my father about this, and it was one of the first questions I posed that he had no answer for. It wasn't his fault. He didn't make the rules. He couldn't be expected to justify their stupidity.

But, looking back, that was the first real indication I can remember that the IOC was a corrupt and ineffectual organization. Things like the allegations of corruption surrounding the original Salt Lake City bids and the skating judging fiasco, the allegations of gambling influence at the Seoul games, the doping scandals that have grown every games, and the mess that gymnastics always is simply make this clearer with every scandal.

And now it is pretty clear that the Chinese gymnastics federation cheated by using ineligible gymnasts, specifically He Kexin, Deng Lilin, and Yang Yilen. Whether you agree with the age limit rules or not, violating them and using ineligible athletes is cheating. The evidence of this cheating keeps piling up. And the response from the IOC on this simply confirms, once and for all, that the IOC, and possibly the modern Olympics, are past their sell by date.

The first thing about this scandal is that it is clear that the Chinese government is really not good at covering their tracks. I'm guessing that they are so used to controlling the media, and having their pronouncements accepted at face value that they have simply been unable to comprehend that some people would go back and double check what they said. They certainly didn't expect people to go onto their websites and dig up older versions of their published materials to contradict the official line.

However, the Chinese have had a willing accomplice to their fraud in the IOC. First, the IOC tried to sweep it under the rug and hoped it would go away. That might have worked thirty years ago when media outlets were few, and a week old sports story would fade off the wire. But now? Not a chance. Then the IOC tried to dodge responsibility saying that it was up to the gymnastics federation to decide (which makes one wonder what the IOC actually exists for, if it isn't to run and police the Olympic games). Then it decided to use the silliest investigative technique one could imagine:

Policeman: Hello, did you rob that bank over there? I have two witnesses that say it was you and videotape of you pointing a gun at the bank teller.

Masked man: No, it wasn't me. I had an appointment elsewhere. I'll go get my date book and let you look at it, umm, tomorrow.

Policeman: That's good enough for me. As long as your documents say otherwise, that videotape must be some sort of mistake.

Silly, isn't it? But that's basically the nature of the IOC investigation. Now, the IOC has made noises about "not wanting to offend the Chinese", but that just seems to illustrate the inherent corruption here. If the Chinese didn't manipulate their gymnasts' ages, then they wouldn't be offended - most athletes from other countries have been extraordinarily open about things like testing, many even volunteering for additional tests just to demonstrate their innocence and willingness to cooperate. But China? To even suggest that the Chinese might have cheated, even with piles of evidence that they did, is somehow too insulting to consider. And that's because the IOC is desperate to pretend that there are no problems with the Beijing games because, I think, they have been stung by the very legitimate criticism that Beijing should have never been awarded the games to begin with.

And, in many ways, that's the fundamental issue here. The IOC should have known better. Getting a big prize doesn't make a police state become more open, more liberal, and more tolerant. Getting a big prize just legitimizes a police state and gives it a platform to engage in propaganda. It did in 1938, it did in 1980, and it did in 2008. The Chinese government, rather than opening up and becoming more tolerant, has used the "security" concerns of the games to crack down in Tibet, arrest thousands of people, and basically tighten up security and suppress dissent. The Chinese prettied up Beijing for the games, and tried to combat their horrific pollution, but essentially this amounted to building a giant Potemkin village for the television cameras. And the IOC looks like the corrupt, clueless gang that they actually are. To me, it highlights the true ineffectiveness of the IOC - they don't dare offend anyone, because they, like an abused child who craves the abusers love, they are desperate for countries like China to "be part of the Olympic movement". And China knows this, so they make veiled threats, effectively acting like a spoiled child on the playground who threatens to take his ball and go home unless he can break the rules. But scandals like this only serve to show that the "Olympic movement" is hollow and meaningless

As an aside, can we finally put the whole "Eastern harmony with nature" thing to rest? It should be clear to anyone who paid any attention to the run up to the games that China is a cesspit with levels of pollution almost incomprehensible to Americans. I remember watching one of the bike races, and having the commentators note that although it had rained and cut down on the humidity, the rain was so polluted that it made the roads oily and slick. Think about that for a moment. Then think about how the Chinese banned half the cars in Beijing from driving, closed down dozens of factories, and had to desperately scrub rivers to get them clean enough for boating events. If that's the result of Eastern wisdom, spare me any of that kind of advice.

If the IOC were a real organization, with a real concern for the Olympics, they would aggressively pursue the allegations that the Chinese cheated and used ineligible athletes. If the Chinese didn't, then they will have done their job, and China will be vindicated and the world will be assured that the Olympics are well-run. If China did field ineligible athletes, then a drastic solution will have to be found - because falsifying several passports and birth certificates is not an athlete cheating, but rather an organized conspiracy to cheat by an entire sporting federation. (By the way, doesn't it seem pathetic that China would feel the need to cheat to win. It makes the Chinese sporting federation look childish and insecure that they would do something like this). The only solution is to punish the entire federation. It would not be enough to strip the ineligible athletes of their medals, for the same reason that it isn't enough to simply have monopolists or those who defraud the government pay simple damages (and instead they pay treble damages). The only real sanction that would achieve the effect of showing the IOC isn't a weak and toothless caretaker of the Olympics would be to strip all Chinese gymnasts at the 2008 games of their medals, and ban China from international gymnastics competition until after the 2012 games. Effectively, this would be the equivalent of the NCAA giving a corrupt football program the "death penalty".

It won't happen, of course. Rogge will make noises about fairness. He will dissemble in public. The IOC will accept forged documents from the Chinese. And the IOC will declare that no cheating occurred. And then they will wonder why people aren't enthused about the games any more.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

2008 Mythopoeic Award Nominees

Location: Mythcon XXXVIX in New Britain, Connecticut.

Comments: Under the rules of the Mythopoeic Awards works of scholarship in both the Inklings Studies category and Myth and Fantasy Studies category are eligible for a period of three years after they have been published. This means that works can, and often are, nominated to the final list several years in a row. Given this regular recurrence of titles on the finalist lists, I am convinced that this rule exists to make sure that there is a reasonably fleshed out set of finalist lists every year, as otherwise it would seem that there would be a paucity of nominees, especially in the Inklings Studies category.

Best Adult Fantasy Literature

Orphan's Tales series (In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice) by Catherynne M. Valente

Other Nominees:
Chronicles of Chaos series (Orphans of Chaos, Fugitives of Chaos, and Titans of Chaos) by John C. Wright
In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss
The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Best Children's Fantasy Literature

Harry Potter series (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) by J.K. Rowling

Other Nominees:
Dussie by Nancy Springer
The New Policeman by Kate Thompson
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Modern Tale of Faerie series (Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie, and Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale) by Holly Black

Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies

The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer, appendix by David Bratman

Other Nominees:
The History of the Hobbit (Part One, Mr Baggins and Part Two, Return to Bag-End by John D. Rateliff
Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien's Mythology by Verlyn Flieger
Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien's Middle-Earth by Marjorie Burns
The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner

Myth and Fantasy Studies

The Shadow-Walkers: Jacob Grimm's Mythology of the Monstrous edited by T.A. Shippey

Other Nominees:
Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children's Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper by Charles Butler
From Asgard to Valhalla: The Remarkable History of the Norse Myths by Heather O'Donoghue
The Lure of the Vampire: Gender, Fiction and Fandom from Bram Stoker to Buffy by Milly Williamson
Oz in Perspective: Magic and Myth in the Frank L. Baum Books by Richard Carl Tuerk

Go to previous year's nominees: 2007
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2009

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

2008 Hugo Award Finalists

Location: Denvention 3 in Denver, Colorado.

Comments: In 2008, the alternate history novel The Yiddish Policeman's Union won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. The novel, which posits that the United States established a refuge for Jews fleeing Europe in Alaska in 1941, has no science fiction element other than the changed course of history. I like alternate history, and writers like Harry Turtledove are among my favorite authors, but alternate history, without more, is simply not science fiction. And it seems like a shame to waste an award aimed at honoring science fiction and fantasy upon a book that is simply not within those genres. I don't dislike The Yiddish Policeman's Union, I just don't think it should have won the Hugo Award over the various actual science fiction novels that were nominated against it.

In other categories, a Neil Gaiman property returned to the Hugo winner's circle as the movie adaptation of Stardust won the Best Long Form Dramatic Presentation category, and Doctor Who continued its domination of the Short Form category with a win for its episode Blink. Doctor Who dominated the category, garnering a second nomination for its two part story Human Nature and The Family of Blood, while the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood took up one of the remaining three nomination slots with its episode Captain Jack Harkness. I've said this before, but having a single property dominate an award category the way Doctor Who has dominated the Short Form Dramatic Presentation Hugo is not healthy, either for the award, or for televised science fiction.

Best Novel

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Other Finalists:
Brasyl by Ian McDonald
Halting State by Charles Stross
The Last Colony by John Scalzi
Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer

Best Novella

All Seated on the Ground by Connie Willis

Other Finalists:
The Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress
Memorare by Gene Wolfe
Recovering Apollo 8 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Stars Seen Through Stone by Lucius Shepard

Best Novelette

The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate by Ted Chiang

Other Finalists:
The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics by Daniel Abraham
Dark Integers by Greg Egan
Finisterra by David Moles
Glory by Greg Egan

Best Short Story

Tideline by Elizabeth Bear

Other Finalists:
Distant Replay by Mike Resnick
Last Contact by Stephen Baxter
A Small Room in Koboldtown by Michael Swanwick
Who's Afraid of Wolf 359? by Ken MacLeod

Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work

Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher

Other Finalists:
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Breakfast in the Ruins: Science Fiction in the Last Millennium by Barry N. Malzberg
The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer
Emshwiller: Infinity x Two by Luis Ortiz

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form


Other Finalists:
The Golden Compass
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Heroes, Season 1

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

Doctor Who: Blink

Other Finalists:
Battlestar Galactica: Razor
Doctor Who: Human Nature and The Family of Blood
Star Trek New Voyages: World Enough and Time
Torchwood: Captain Jack Harkness

Best Professional Editor: Short Form

Gordon van Gelder

Other Finalists:
Ellen Datlow
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Sheila Williams

Best Professional Editor: Long Form

David G. Hartwell

Other Finalists:
Lou Anders
Ginjer Buchanan
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Beth Meacham

Best Professional Artist

Stephan Martiniere

Other Finalists:
Bob Eggleton
Phil Foglio
John Harris
John Picacio
Shaun Tan

Best Semi-Prozine

Locus edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, and Liza Groen Trombi

Other Finalists:
Ansible edited by Dave Langford
Helix SF edited by William Sanders and Lawrence Watt-Evans
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
The New York Review of Science Fiction edited by Kathryn Cramer, Kristine Dikeman, David G. Hartwell, and Kevin J. Maroney

Best Fanzine

File 770 edited by Mike Glyer

Other Finalists:
Argentus edited by Steven H Silver
Challenger edited by Guy H. Lillian, III
Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia
Plokta edited by Steve Davies, Alison Scott, and Mike Scott

Best Fan Writer


Other Finalists:
Chris Garcia
Dave Langford
Cheryl Morgan
Steven H Silver

Best Fan Artist

Brad Foster

Other Finalists:
Teddy Harvia
Sue Mason
Steve Stiles
Taral Wayne

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Mary Robinette Kowal

Other Finalists:
Joe Abercrombie
Jon Armstrong
David Anthony Durham
David Louis Edelman
Scott Lynch

What Are the Hugo Awards?

Go to previous year's finalists: 2007
Go to subsequent year's finalists: 2009

2008 Hugo Longlist     Book Award Reviews     Home

Saturday, June 21, 2008

2008 Locus Award Nominees

Location: Seattle, Washington.

Comments: One of the more difficult things to do is to write something about every annual set of award nominees for the major genre fiction awards that I am tracking on this blog. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that in many cases I haven't read many of the books on the list - reading and reviewing all of these books being the point of this blog after all. As a result, sometimes I simply don't have anything to say about a set of nominees. And this is one of those times.

Best Science Fiction Novel
1.   The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Other Nominees:
2.   Spook Country by William Gibson
3.   Halting State by Charles Stross
4.   Brasyl by Ian McDonald
5.   The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
6.   Axis by Robert Charles Wilson
7.   Black Man (aka Thirteen) by Richard Morgan
8.   The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod
9.   Ha'penny by Jo Walton
10. Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson
11. Undertow by Elizabeth Bear
12. Mainspring by Jay Lake
13. Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder
14. The Sons of Heaven by Kage Baker
15. The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
16. Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff
17. Shelter by Susan Palwick
18. HARM by Brian W. Aldiss
19. In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan
20. Engineer Trilogy (Devices and Desires, Evil for Evil, The Escapement) by K.J. Parker
21. The Last Colony by John Scalzi
22. Conqueror by Stephen Baxter
23. Till Human Voices Wake Us by Mark Budz

Best Fantasy Novel
1.   Making Money by Terry Pratchett

Other Nominees:
2.   Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
3.   Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe
4.   Territory by Emma Bull
5.   Endless Things by John Crowley
6.   The White Tyger by Paul Park
7.   Softspoken by Lucius Shepard
8.   Ink by Hal Duncan
9.   Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente
10. Whiskey and Water by Elizabeth Bear
11. The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
12. A Betrayal in Winter by Daniel Abraham
13. The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia
14. Titans of Chaos by John C. Wright
15. Daughter of Hounds by Caitlín R. Kiernan
16. The Spiral Labyrinth by Matthew Hughes
17. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
18. Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt
19. Bone Song by John Meaney

Best Young Adult Book
1.   Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

Other Nominees:
2.   Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin
3.   The H-Bomb Girl by Stephen Baxter
4.   Extras by Scott Westerfeld
5.   Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier
6.   Ironside by Holly Black
7.   The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
8.   Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey
9.   Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
10. Verdigris Deep (aka Well Witched) by Frances Hardinge
11. The Dream Quake (aka Dreamquake) by Elizabeth Knox
12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Best First Novel
1.    Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Other Nominees:
2.   The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
3.   Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce
4.   One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak
5.   City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
6.   Grey by Jon Armstrong
7.   The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe
8.   Breakfast with the One You Love by Eliot Fintushel
9.   Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
10. Maledicte by Lane Robins

Best Novella
1.   After the Siege by Cory Doctorow

Other Nominees:
2.   Memorare by Gene Wolfe
3.   All Seated on the Ground by Connie Willis
4.   Stars Seen through Stone by Lucius Shepard
5.   Muse of Fire by Dan Simmons
6.   The Master Miller's Tale by Ian R. MacLeod
7.   Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress
8.   Illyria by Elizabeth Hand
9.   Recovering Apollo 8 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
10. The Emperor and the Maula by Robert Silverberg
11. Dagger Key by Lucius Shepard
12. Hormiga Canyon by Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling
13. Dead Money by Lucius Shepard
14. The Lees of Laughter's End by Steven Erikson
15. The Game by Diana Wynne Jones
16. Awakening by Judith Berman
17. Of Love and Other Monsters by Vandana Singh
18. Womb of Every World by Walter Jon Williams

Best Novelette
1.   The Witch's Headstone by Neil Gaiman

Other Nominees:
2.   The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate by Ted Chiang
3.   Dark Integers by Greg Egan
4.   We Never Talk About My Brother by Peter S. Beagle
5.   Trunk and Disorderly by Charles Stross
6.   Wikiworld by Paul Di Filippo
7.   The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics by Daniel Abraham
8.   Urdumheim by Michael Swanwick
9.   Cryptic Coloration by Elizabeth Bear
10. The Magic Animal by Gene Wolfe
11. Kiosk by Bruce Sterling
12. Glory by Greg Egan
13. Against the Current by Robert Silverberg
14. Winter's Wife by Elizabeth Hand (reviewed in Errantry: Strange Stories)
15. Light by Kelly Link
16. Hellfire at Twilight by Kage Baker
17. The Skysailor's Tale by Michael Swanwick
18. Finisterra by David Moles
19. The Constable of Abal by Kelly Link
20. A Diorama of the Infernal Regions, or The Devil's Ninth Question by Andy Duncan
21. The Surgeon's Tale by Jeff VanderMeer and Cat Rambo
22. An Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away by John Barnes
23. The Bone Man by Frederic S. Durbin
24. Holly and Iron by Garth Nix
25. The Sky is Large and the Earth is Small by Chris Roberson
26. Dance of Shadows by Fred Chappell
27. The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change by Kij Johnson
28. The Forest by Laird Barron
29. Safeguard by Nancy Kress
30. Wizard's Six by Alex Irvine
31. Princess Lucinda and the Hound of the Moon by Theodora Goss
32. Crossing the Seven by Jay Lake

Best Short Story
1.   A Small Room in Koboldtown by Michael Swanwick

Other Nominees:
2.   The Last and Only, or, Mr. Moscowitz Becomes French by Peter S. Beagle
3.   Who's Afraid of Wolf 359? by Ken MacLeod
4.   Tideline by Elizabeth Bear
5.   Last Contact by Stephen Baxter
6.   Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse by Andy Duncan
7.   Art of War by Nancy Kress
8.   Jesus Christ, Reanimator by Ken MacLeod
9.   The Dreaming Wind by Jeffrey Ford
10. Pirates of the Somali Coast by Terry Bisson
11. Barrens Dancing by Peter S. Beagle
12. The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer
13. The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford
14. Always by Karen Joy Fowler
15. Artifice and Intelligence by Tim Pratt
16. Magic with Thirteen-Year-Old Boys by Robert Reed
17. Among Strangers by Pat Cadigan
18. Orm the Beautiful by Elizabeth Bear
19. Mrs. Zeno's Paradox by Ellen Klages
20. Verthandi's Ring by Ian McDonald
21. The Ruby Incomparable by Kage Baker
22. Memoir of a Deer Woman by M. Rickert
23. Osama Phone Home by David Marusek
24. Stone and the Librarian by William Browning Spencer
25. Sanjeev and Robotwallah by Ian McDonald
26. The Manticore Spell by Jeffrey Ford
27. Holiday by M. Rickert
28. (tie) The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large by Maureen F. McHugh
      (tie) Under the Bottom of the Lake by Jeffrey Ford
30. Three Days of Rain by Holly Phillips
31. Soul Case by Nalo Hopkinson
32. By Fools Like Me by Nancy Kress
33. Singing of Mount Abora by Theodora Goss
34. Fragrant Goddess by Paul Park
35. The Lustration by Bruce Sterling
36. Electric Rains by Kathleen Ann Goonan
37. A Plain Tale from Our Hills by Bruce Sterling
38. Graduation Afternoon by Stephen King
39. Clockmaker's Requiem by Barth Anderson
40. Catherine and the Satyr by Theodora Goss
41. Molly and the Red Hat by Benjamin Rosenbaum
42. C-Rock City by Jay Lake and Greg Van Eekhout

Best Collection
1.   The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories by Connie Willis

Other Nominees:
2.   The Jack Vance Treasury by Jack Vance
3.   Overclocked by Cory Doctorow
4.   The Dog Said Bow-Wow by Michael Swanwick
5.   Things Will Never Be the Same: Selected Short Fiction 1980-2005 by Howard Waldrop
6.   New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear
7.   Gods and Pawns by Kage Baker
8.   Ascendancies: The Best of Bruce Sterling by Bruce Sterling
9.   Dagger Key and Other Stories by Lucius Shepard
10. Portable Childhoods by Ellen Klages
11. The Nail and the Oracle: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Volume XI by Theodore Sturgeon
12. Hart & Boot & Other Stories by Tim Pratt
13. Getting to Know You by David Marusek
14. Past Magic by Ian R. MacLeod
15. The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron
16. The Fate of Mice by Susan Palwick
17. Dangerous Space by Kelley Eskridge
18. The Guild of Xenolinguists by Sheila Finch
19. The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories by Bruce McAllister
20. Rynemonn by Terry Dowling

Best Anthology
1.   The New Space Opera edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan

Other Nominees:
2.   The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois
3.   The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
4.   The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Collection edited by Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link, and Gavin J. Grant
5.   The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
6.   Wizards edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois
7.   Logorrhea edited by John Klima
8.   Eclipse One: New Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Jonathan Strahan
9.   Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge edited by Lou Anders
10. Inferno edited by Ellen Datlow
11. Year's Best SF 12 edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
12. The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction edited by George Mann
13. Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel
14. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume One edited by Jonathan Strahan
15. Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine 30th Anniversary Anthology edited by Sheila Williams
16. Best Short Novels: 2007 edited by Jonathan Strahan
17. The SFWA European Hall of Fame edited by James Morrow and Kathryn Morrow
18. The Best of the Best, Volume 2: 20 Years of the Best Short Science Fiction Novels edited by Gardner Dozois
19. Year's Best Fantasy 7 edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
20. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror: Volume Eighteen edited by Stephen Jones
21. Worlds Apart: An Anthology of Russian Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Alexander Levitsky
22. Fantasy: The Best of the Year: 2007 Edition edited by Rich Horton
23. Science Fiction: The Best of the Year: 2007 Edition edited by Rich Horton

Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Book
1.   Breakfast in the Ruins by Barry N. Malzberg

Other Nominees:
2.   Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction edited by Jeff Prucher
3.   The Country You Have Never Seen by Joanna Russ
4.   Gateways to Forever: The Story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1970 to 1980 by Mike Ashley
5.   Shadows of the New Sun: Wolfe on Writing/Writers on Wolfe by Peter Wright
6.   Sides by Peter Straub
7.   Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: An Encyclopedia of Our Worst Nightmares edited by S.T. Joshi
8.   Anne McCaffrey: A Life with Dragons by Robin Roberts
9.   Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia by Brian Stableford
10. Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction by Gary Westfahl
11. The Cultural Influences of William Gibson, the "Father" of Cyberpunk Science Fiction edited by Carl B. Yoke and Carol L. Robinson

Best Art Book
1.   The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Other Nominees:
2.   Spectrum 14: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art edited by Cathy Fenner and Arnie Fenner
3.   Emshwiller: Infinity x Two edited by Luis Ortiz
4.   Dreamscape: The Best of Imaginary Realism edited by Claus Brusen and Marcel Salome
5.   Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art compiled by Sebastian Peake and Alison Eldred, edited by G. Peter Winnington
6.   Fantasy Art Now: The Very Best in Contemporary Fantasy Art & Illustration edited by Martin McKenna
7.   Beowulf: A Tale of Blood, Heat, and Ashes retold by Nicky Raven, illustrated by John Howe
8.   Worlds of Amano by Yoshitaka Amano
9.   The Adventuress by Audrey Niffenegger
10. Women: Motifs and Variations by Rafal Olbinski

Best Editor
1.   Ellen Datlow

Other Nominees:
2.   Gardner Dozois
3.   Gordon van Gelder
4.   David G. Hartwell
5.   Patrick Nielsen Hayden
6.   Jim Baen
7.   Jonathan Strahan
8.   Gavin Grant and Kelly Link
9.   Lou Anders
10. Sheila Williams
11. Jeff VanderMeer
12. Terri Windling
13. Peter Crowther
14. Teresa Nielsen Hayden
15. Stanley Schmidt
16. Robert Silverberg
17. Stephen Jones
18. Shawna McCarthy
19. Beth Meacham
20. Martin H. Greenberg
21. Toni Weisskopf
22. Ginjer Buchanan
23. Sharyn November
24. William K. Schafer
25. Betsy Wollheim
26. Andy Cox
27. Susan Marie Groppi
28. Deborah Layne and Jay Lake
29. Juliet Ulman
30. Betsy Mitchell

Best Magazine
1.   Fantasy & Science Fiction

Other Nominees:
2.   Asimov's
3.   Analog
4.   Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet
5.   Subterranean
6.   Interzone
7.   Realms of Fantasy
8.   Jim Baen's Universe
9.   Strange Horizons
10. The New York Review of Science Fiction
11. Weird Tales
12. Postscripts
13. Ansible
14. Clarkesworld Magazine
15. SF Site
16. Fantasy Magazine
17. SF Weekly
18. Cemetery Dance
19. Electric Velocipede
20. Black Gate
21. SFRevu
22. Internet Review of Science Fiction
23. Talebones

Best Book Publisher or Imprint
1.   Tor

Other Nominees:
2.   Subterranean Press
3.   Night Shade Books
4.   Baen
5.   Bantam Spectra
6.   Ace
7.   DAW
8.   Del Rey
9.   Gollancz
10. Pyr
11. PS Publishing
12. Small Beer Press
13. Golden Gryphon
14. Tachyon
15. Eos
16. Roc
17. Orbit
18. NESFA Press
19. Firebird
20. St. Martin's
21. MonkeyBrain
22. SF Book Club
23. Arkham House
24. Meisha Merlin
25. Prime
26. Luna
27. Wheatland

Best Artist
1.   Charles Vess

Other Nominees:
2.   Michael Whelan
3.   Shaun Tan
4.   John Picacio
5.   Stephan Martiniere
6.   Bob Eggleton
7.   Dave McKean
8.   Donato Giancola
9.   John Jude Palencar
10. Kinuko Y. Craft
11. Jim Burns
12. Thomas Canty
13. Yoshitaka Amano
14. J.K. Potter
15. Frank Wu
16. Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon
17. Frank Frazetta
18. Clive Barker
19. Boris Vallejo
20. Vincent Di Fate
21. Tom Kidd
22. Michael Kaluta
23. Paul Kidby
24. David Cherry
25. Don Maitz
26. Luis Royo
27. Brom
28. Les Edwards
29. Julie Bell
30. Stephen Youll

Go to previous year's nominees: 2007
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2009

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, June 16, 2008

Random Thought - Magazines

I'm usually a fairly forward leaning guy. I grew up with computers in the house, I think it is a travesty that we aren't farming the oceans like in The Deep Range, and that there is really no excuse for abandoning the moon after Apollo and so on. But in some ways, I think I'm a dinosaur. While sending in a subscription for Realms of Fantasy today, I realized that one of those areas is definitely magazines.

One thing that is certain is that magazine readership is on the decline. Magazine subscriptions are down. The print magazine business has been on the decline for quite a while, certainly it is much smaller now than it was in the 1940s and 1950s. Dozens of magazine titles have gone out of business, and almost all of the others have seen their volumes decline precipitously.

And yet, I subscribe to and read seven different magazines: The Economist, National Geographic, Science News, Locus, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and Asimov's Science Fiction. As of today, with the addition of Realms of Fantasy, the total is up to eight. Note that not only do I subscribe to them, I said "and read" - I think this is important. I know a lot of people who subscribe to one or another magazine and never read the issues. I used to subscribe to the daily Washington Post, but I realized I never read it, so I discontinued it.

But still, eight magazine subscriptions. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Can you hear the crashing footsteps of a dinosaur?

Random Thoughts     Home

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Biased Opinion - No Squid Faced Aliens Need Apply

Following up on my last entry, I decided to put together a short list of science fiction that doesn't meet Margaret Atwood's definition of science fiction. If you recall, according to her, Oryx and Crake isn't science fiction because it has "no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians". To expand on her statements, apparently science fiction is "when you have rockets and chemicals". Also, according to Ms. Atwood, science fiction is about "talking squids in outer space". It certainly isn't about a dystopian future in which religious zealots have taken over the U.S. government and forced women into concubinage (like her other science fiction story, The Handmaid's Tale, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award).

All of which is pretty much just a list of reasons why some writers should never be allowed to give interviews, because they will just embarrass themselves by exposing their ignorance.

But, just for fun, I figured I'd come up with a list of books that are clearly science fiction, but that manage to avoid these elements. But, just to see how far I can push the definition, I decided to make the terms a little more restrictive than even Ms. Atwood does.

1. No intergalactic space travel. This definition wouldn't actually exclude many science fiction books at all, primarily because there aren't all that many stories featuring intergalactic space travel; that is, space travel between galaxies. David Brin's second Uplift series has travel between galaxies, as does E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series (read review), but not many others do. Even Isaac Asmiov's Foundation series (read review) and Frank Herbert's Dune series, which feature galaxy spanning empires don't have intergalactic space travel. I think Ms. Atwood meant to say interstellar or interplanetary space travel (or maybe even just space travel at all, but that prevents people from writing about stuff that people have actually done, so that is probably too restrictive). Just for grins, I'll say that she meant interplanetary space travel, and exclude from my list anything that involves travel between planets, stars, or galaxies.

2. No teleportation. This actually doesn't exclude much of anything. Very few science fiction works actually involve teleportation. Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination gets eliminated from my list by this restriction, as does a fair amount of Larry Niven's Known Space books, since they include teleportation plates. Some relatively minor works like Jumper also have teleportation. On the whole, though, unless you think Star Trek with its transporters is the core of science fiction, not many works actually feature this element.

3. No Martians. This specific definition doesn't affect many science fiction works either, since comparatively few feature actual Martians. Robert A. Heinlein's Red Planet, and Podkayne of Mars feature Martians, as does Isaac Asimov's David Starr, Space Ranger. Of course, a lot of older pulp stories like Burrough's Barsoom series feature Martians too. But let's not limit ourselves to Martians, let's exclude from my list all books that involve aliens - that is - all books that feature intelligent life from planets other than Earth. That certainly takes care of any books involving "talking squids in outer space". To tell the truth, I'm not sure how many science fiction stories actually feature talking squids, maybe The Human Pets of Mars, or maybe War of the Worlds would qualify, but the list of books with that specific element seems to be pretty small.

I've also decided to not list science fiction short stories, or else the list would become ridiculously long without really even having to try - The Roads Must Roll, The Nine Billion Names of God, If This Goes On-, Coventry, and so on just seem to be too much like absurdly low-hanging fruit. So, what sort of list do we have once we exclude interplanetary space travel, teleportation, and aliens from our list? Quite a bit actually.

(Side note: I make no claims as to the quality of any particular work listed here. I also don't pretend that this is anything like a comprehensive list of books that are science fiction, but don't have the elements that Ms. Atwood thinks characterize the genre. This is simply an off the top of my head list of books that I remember that meet the stated criteria. I'm sure that any number of people could easily add works I forgot to this list.)

Without further ado, here's the list, arranged by author, in no particular order.

Robert A. Heinlein: The Door Into Summer, I Will Fear No Evil, Farnham's Freehold, and Sixth Column (also titled The Day After Tomorrow)

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: Lucifer's Hammer, Inferno, and Oath of Fealty

Larry Niven and Steven Barnes: Dream Park, The California Voodoo Game (read review), and The Barsoom Project

Arthur C. Clarke: The Ghost from the Grand Banks

Brian Aldiss: Greybeard

Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451

Richard Cowper: The Road to Corlay, A Dream of Kinship, and A Tapestry of Time

William Gibson: Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and Count Zero

Robert Sheckley: Immortality, Inc.

Alfred Bester: The Demolished Man (read review)

Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon

John Varley: Millennium

Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker

H.G. Wells: The Invisible Man, and The Island of Dr. Moreau

Aldous Huxley: Brave New World

Yevgeny Zamyatin: We

Robert Mason: Weapon

Nancy Kress: Beggars in Spain

John Brunner: Stand on Zanzibar

David Brin: Earth and The Postman

Greg Egan: Permutation City

Michael Crichton: Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Prey, and The Andromeda Strain

Andre Norton: No Night Without Stars

I could go on and on, but I figure this is enough to prove my point. Science fiction gets along just fine without space travel, aliens, and teleportation. In point of fact, many of the most influential works of science fiction feature none of these elements, and yet, somehow, despite Ms. Atwood's claims, they remain science fiction.

As does a story about a dystopian future that deals extensively with the results of genetic engineering. She can twist, dodge, and play semantic games all she wants, but Ms. Atwood has written two books that are clearly science fiction, whether she wants to admit it or not.

Biased Opinions     Home